Encarnacion steps up to spark Blue Jays

Encarnacion, Arencibia power Blue Jays

Encarnacion steps up to spark Blue Jays
BOSTON -- The Blue Jays' offense appeared to be sleepwalking along Saturday night until Edwin Encarnacion sprung the bats to life.

Toronto's first baseman continued to pick up the slack left behind by an injured Jose Bautista, propelling the Blue Jays to their second consecutive victory at Fenway Park.

Encarnacion hit a game-tying two-run shot in the sixth, while J.P. Arencibia followed an inning later with a go-ahead homer to secure what ended up being a 7-3 win over the Red Sox on Saturday.

"I felt great when I made that swing and we turned the game around," Encarnacion said. "We tied the game, and when the guys get hot at the plate, you see what happens. ... I hit that ball great, hit it perfect."

Toronto entered the top of the sixth inning trailing, 3-1, but then put on a power display that won't soon be forgotten. After a two-out walk to Colby Rasmus, Encarnacion followed with a rocket over the Green Monster in left field. The ball sailed above a Sports Authority sign and traveled over Landsdowne Street before bouncing into a neighboring parking lot.

Encarnacion's 26th long ball of the season was a two-run shot, tying the game at 3. He now has four home runs, three doubles and 19 RBIs in his past 15 games against Boston, dating back to last season. Encarnacion also moved to within one home run of Bautista for the team lead in homers and two behind Texas' Josh Hamilton and the White Sox's Adam Dunn for tops in the American League.

The 29-year-old Encarnacion has been producing all season, but with Bautista out of the lineup until at least the beginning of August, there has been added pressure on the heart of the order to help fill the void. That puts undue emphasis on Encarnacion, who takes over as the Blue Jays' best hitter, but manager John Farrell doesn't think it's caused Encarnacion to press at the plate.

"He's not acting like it," Farrell said. "He has been in a good place all year, and even if he doesn't get his pitch, he's not afraid to turn it over to [Adam] Lind behind him. He has done just an outstanding job for us all season."

Arencibia delivered the go-ahead shot an inning later. He sent a first-pitch sinker from Aaron Cook over the Green Monster and onto Landsdowne Street. It was the Blue Jays' third home run this season to leave Fenway Park, with Bautista launching one out of the ballpark earlier this month.

Toronto's catcher is now hitting .352 (12-for-34) with three doubles, three homers and seven RBIs over his past 11 games. The strong production has resulted in a higher spot in the batting order as Arencibia has hit either fifth or sixth in recent games.

Farrell intends to ride the hot streak and he likes what Arencibia can add to a lineup when he's hitting well.

"Not only does it lengthen the lineup out, whether he's in that five-six area or down in the order, but it gives us a true right-handed power threat," Farrell said. "Not just against left-handed pitching, he has hit both lefties and righties while he's been in that run."

Later in the seventh, Brett Lawrie celebrated his return to the starting lineup following a one-game absence by snapping an 0-for-16 skid with a two-run single to left. All of a sudden, the Blue Jays went from being two runs down to four up in a span of just two innings.

The quick-strike offensive attack soured what was initially a strong outing by Cook. Boston's right-hander allowed five runs (three earned) on four hits and one walk while striking out one.

"Cook was pretty good," Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine said. "He has ground balls going, he kept them at bay for awhile and started off the seventh with a couple of comebackers. I think the walk, he might have lost a little concentration, I don't know. They only hit two balls hard against him. They both went over the fence. It was a pretty good outing."

Toronto's five runs in two innings made a surprise winner out of Carlos Villanueva, who delivered a strong outing for the third consecutive start. The veteran righty entered the game having pitched 12 consecutive scoreless innings, but that streak came to an end in the second.

Villanueva allowed the first two batters he faced to reach base, and then served up a 1-2 slider that catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia sent into the right-field bullpen. Villanueva then settled down and didn't allow a run for the rest of his outing.

The 28-year-old was eventually pulled with one out in the seventh. He allowed just four hits while walking two and striking out five. He threw 65 of his 101 pitches for strikes and has now recorded three quality starts in four outings since joining the starting rotation on June 29.

"It was kind of a test, keeping the game within reach and letting our guys come back and score that one run," Villanueva said. "It was important to put up a zero after that, and guys came through, J.P. and Eddie in a big way. The fact that I was able to keep the game close and come back is what really matters."

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.